The Harry Dresden series may be the closest thing to a pulp magazine on the newsstands today. It combines all of the heroic, fantasy, and criminal ele...moreThe Harry Dresden series may be the closest thing to a pulp magazine on the newsstands today. It combines all of the heroic, fantasy, and criminal elements common in the heydays of characters like the Spider and the Phantom Detective, and updates them to a modern day setting.
I first heard about the character from watching the TV series, The Dresden Files. Another short-lived—rare, but genuine hit—that aired on the Sci Fi channel. Paul Blackthorne was brilliant playing the scruffy freelance wizard-for-hire. Unfortunately, the show wasn't renewed for a second season.
While browsing the newsstand, I discovered the novels and was pleased to learn they weren't based on the show, but rather the TV series was drawn from them. That was enough incentive to give the first one a try.
There's no doubt the show influenced my enjoyment of Storm Front. I already knew the characters and could picture the well-cast TV personas as I read the book. Nonetheless, I thoroughly enjoyed this murder mystery with a spellbinding twist. I also really enjoyed the backstory of the character's lives and histories that connects the novels beyond the excitement of the current edition.
I always enjoyed Ditko's Dr. Strange and although Harry Dresden the man, is nothing like the good doctor; as a wizard he recalls the magic and excitement of those wondrous realms of good and evil. If you're a fan of the old pulp magazine heroes, The Dresden Files offers you a glimpse of what it may have been like to pick up the latest title back then and lose yourself in its pages.
This book is the companion monkey, printed tour guide, and pocket personal adviser on how to write a 50,000 word novel in 30 days, written by no less than the founding father of the National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) himself.
The official NaNoWriMo is November. But you can choose any month you'd like and follow the advice in this guide. However, it's bound to be more fun when you know there are tens of thousands of other people all over the country—the world even—doing the same thing. You may even find time to connect with some of them via NaNoWriMo's forums or in person through your local Municipal Liaison. This thing gets bigger every year. There were over 100,000 novel participants in 2007 and more than 15,000 of them reached The End.
The book itself is an example of a work that's 50,000 words in length. Others are The Great Gatsby, Brave New World, The Catcher in the Rye, and Of Mice and Men. These are short novels by today's standards. Current popular fiction usually comes in at 75,000 to 80,000 words. But Baty advises what you're really writing is the first draft or your novel. The rewrite you may choose to do after NaNoWriMo concludes will likely add considerably to the word count before it graduates to a finished, polished novel. Or, just do it for fun, or to rejuvenate your creative reservoir.
Most professional writers advise the single most important thing for the novice to do is write, and write some more. So NaNoWriMo may be just the therapeutic immersion opportunity your writing aspiration needs.
In many respects this guide is a sales pitch to entice you to join the horde in November for the annual write-a-thon. Baty does a good job of creating excitement and enthusiasm in his appeal to the inner author, who's always wanted to write a book. But it's also a very practical guide that walks you through the obstacles and challenges you'll face along the way. It's all here, inspiration, support, life logistics and time management, the sweet smell of success, and a week-by-week self-help guide to get you over the most challenging hurdles.
You can read the whole book upfront to gain insights and tips about this wacky exercise, or you can use it as a personal adviser during the NaNoWriMo event itself, reading the individual weekly chapters at the appropriate time.
Baty writes in a friendly, humorous tone, never taking any aspect of the process too seriously except the goal (50K words) and the deadline (30 days). He writes with the conviction of someone who knows this territory inside out. Which is no surprise, since he's completed an impressive eight consecutive NaNoWriMos since starting this crazy marathon in 1999.
The book also includes a healthy batch of asides that offer additional advice related to the current topic at hand. Many are useful observations from previous "winners" who successfully wrote their novels in 30 days.
If you've ever mused about NaNoWriMo or writing a novel yourself, No Plot? No Problem! provides a quick, useful backgrounder into the process. They say the first draft is the hardest, so this may be just the kick-start you need to begin.
This is an excellent resource book for writers who want to learn more about what goes into the construction of a good novel or short story. Kress is a...moreThis is an excellent resource book for writers who want to learn more about what goes into the construction of a good novel or short story. Kress is a Hugo and Nebula award winner, author of dozens of novels and short stories, and a frequent contributor to Writer's Digest. She knows the territory very well and shares her extensive knowledge clearly and concisely.
The book is divided into the three sections of its title. Beginnings focuses on the first two scenes. From the very start a good story sets the stage for what's to come with conflict, character development, and interesting details. A strong beginning will usually evoke emotion from the reader as well.
By the time a writer completes a draft of the first two scenes, he'll know enough to decide whose story it is, which point-of-view to present, and what the main plotline will be. This information is important for the bulk of the story: the middle.
The Middle is where the writer develops the story's implicit promise—the reason the reader is reading. It may be simply to be entertained, to live vicariously through the story's characters, to learn something new, etc. A strong Middle delivers on the story's promise and dramatizes events to increase conflict, reveal character, and set the forces in motion that will lead to the story's climax. The Middle is the long bridge between the Beginning and the End.
The End is largely the story's climax where the conflicting forces that have been building up during the long Middle finally collide. In novels, the End also includes the denouement, where the final details of the story are wrapped up. Most short stories end with the climax itself.
Kress' book includes three chapters for each of the three sections. Each chapter concludes with exercises to help beginning writers understand the material in greater depth.
Throughout the work, Kress is careful to note the differences between writing a short story and a novel. Her guidelines are equally valuable for both types of stories. She does an excellent job presenting the material and then provides examples to illustrate her points.
Beginnings, Middles & Ends is an excellent guidebook for beginning writers. At 150 pages it's a quick read and a great addition to a writer's reference shelf. Website: http://www.sff.net/people/nankress/(less)
The more I see of Steinke's comics, the better I like them. He's self-published several mini comics such as Big Plans #1-3 and the Super Crazy Cat Dance. He's also contributed to some great anthology titles like Not My Small Diary and Papercutter. Neptune is his first book-length effort. He worked on the project for over a year. It's based on a story he developed for an animated cartoon several years ago, that was never completed. Rather than let the story languish, he decided to turn it into a comic.
Neptune is about a young girl, her brother, and a stray dog. It's an all-ages story, but it's entertaining enough to be fun for adult readers as well. Steinke is studying to be a teacher, but he's wise enough to acknowledge that kids hate school. It's this honesty and his willingness to explore the perspective of his characters that gives what would otherwise be a charming picture book something more—a little depth.
For example, there's a scene at school in which the Vice Principal calls in the janitor to deal with a dog (Neptune) inside the building. George (the janitor) knows he's got to enforce the rules, but as he rushes to respond he's thinking, "I like dogs, but I've gotta act tough." Besides being a funny line, it shows the conflict the character feels as he tries to reconcile his gut reaction with what he's expected to do.
The book explores the familiar territory of childhood such as getting ready for school in the morning and leaving the house early enough to catch the bus. Then Steinke adds the dream of finding a stray dog that instantly loves the kids as much as they love him. And finally he pushes past reality entirely with another event that adds danger and adventure to the suburban neighborhood setting.
Like his story, Steinke's artwork is charming and entertaining with unexpected depth. He uses bold lines and lots of black. Some panels are stark with only a character's head and a line of dialogue. Others are richly textured with detailed backgrounds or intricate patterns or stippling. Most pages are composed of six uniform panels, but others add drama or mood changes through layout or explode out to the edges of the page.
I saw a few of the originals at a local reading and was surprised by their size. They seemed only slightly larger than the printed pages. Each panel was drawn separately, cut out, and then pasted down onto bristol board. Even the edges of the cut-out panels were carefully colored black before being glued into place to eliminate shadows or the appearance of uneven borders.